Tag Archives: Bread of Life

Weekday Readings: Third Week of Easter


Monday Acts 6,8-15; John 6,22-29
Tuesday Acts 7,58-8,1; John 6,30=35
Wednesday Acts 8,1-8; John 6,35-40
Thursday Acts 8,26-40; John 6,44-51
Friday Acts 9,1-20; John 6,52-59
Saturday Acts 9,31-42; John 6,60-69

The Mass readings this week continue from the Acts of the Apostles with the story of the Greek-speaking deacon Stephen. His fiery preaching against temple worship and “stiff-necked” Jewish opposition to Jesus results in his death and a persecution that drives Hellenist Christians out of Jerusalem. (Monday and Tuesday) But Stephen’s death, like the death of Jesus, brings new life. The church grows. “The death of Christians is the seed of Christianity.” (Tertullian )

Philip the Deacon, one of those displaced, preaches to the Samaritans north of Jerusalem. Then, led by the Spirit, he converts the Ethiopian eunuch returning home after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Wednesday and Thursday} Following Philip’s activity, Paul, the persecutor, is converted by Jesus himself. (Friday)

Before Paul’s ministry begins, Peter leaves Jerusalem to bless the new Christian communities near the coast; at Joppa he’s told by God to meet the Roman centurion in Caesarea Maritima. The mission to the gentile world begins with that meeting. (Saturday)

Stephen, Philip, Peter and Paul serve God’s mysterious plan. It’s not human planning. The Holy Spirit is at work.

The gospel readings this week are from St.John’s gospel– segments of Jesus’ long discourse on the Bread of Life to the crowd at Capernaum after the miracle of the loaves. (John 6) In the Eucharist we meet the Risen Christ.  He not only feeds us personally, but a growing church is fed.

The Bread of Christ

bread wine
Besides being one body, the Body of Christ, we are also one Bread in him. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we listen first to God’s word and then offer bread and wine. The prayer over the bread points to its meaning:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you; fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

We receive the bread, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands,” from our Creator. St. Augustine calls the bread we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer and the bread we offer at Mass “the bread of everything.” The gift of everything is acknowledged at Mass through the bread and wine; we’re blessed with everything, we’re reminded, and through them, we give thanks to the God of goodness for it all. “What do you have that you have not received?”

The greatest of God’s blessings is Jesus Christ who, on the night before he died took bread into his hands, the “bread of everything,” and gave himself to his disciples through this sign. “Take and eat, this is my body which will be given up for you.” In a similar way, he gave them the cup of wine that signifies his blood “poured out” for us.

“Do this in memory of me,” he said.

A mystery of faith, we say in our prayer. We believe through these signs. We can’t let their humble circumstances– the place, the people, the simple acts and words dissuade us. We’re called to wonder at what’s hidden here.

LOST, ALL LOST IN WONDER
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,

Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,

See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart

Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.



Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:

How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;

What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;

Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.



On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,

Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:

Both are my confession, both are my belief,

And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,

But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;

Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,

Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,

Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,

Lend this life to me then:
feed and feast my mind,

There be thou the sweetness
man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;

Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—

Blood whereof a single drop has power to win

All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,

I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,

Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light

And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.

(translation of Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.)

Hunger

Manna in the Desert

The next five Sundays we’ll read from the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel, beginning this Sunday with the miracle of the loaves and the fish. All four gospels recall this miracle, Mark and Matthew report it twice. The miracle and Jesus’ words that follow it in John’s gospel are about the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the answer to our hunger.

The miracle takes place across the Sea of Galilee, in a “deserted place,’ as Matthew’s gospel describes it. There’s no place to buy food for a hungry crowd.

There’s only five barley loaves and two fish a small boy has. Barley loaves were the ordinary food for the poor.

Jesus initiates this miracle by pointing out to his disciples  a hunger in the crowd. They seem hardly aware of it and have no answer what to do, except to say “We don’t have enough!”  Taking what’s there, the five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus multiplies this food and feeds a multitude. John notes the Passover is near; it’s spring and green grass has grown up in this deserted place. Not only is it enough, but fragments are left over as the crowd has its fill.

Keep in mind the basic reality the miracle addresses: hunger. It’s bodily hunger, yes, but hunger of all kinds is addressed here. Like the disciples, we may be hardly aware of it. Humanity is hungry, this gospel says. Only God can fill its silent, hidden hunger, this miracle says. Only Jesus can.

Hunger

“I come among the peoples like a shadow,

I sit down by each man’s side,

None sees me,

but they look on one another and know that I am there

My silence is like the silence of the tide that buries the playground of children

Like the deepening of frost in the slow night, when birds are dead in the morning.

Armies travel, invade, destroy with guns roaring from earth and air.

I am more terrible than armies.

I am more feared than cannon, kings and chancellors

I give no command to any, but I am listened to more than kings

and more than passionate orators

I unswear words and undo deeds,

Naked things know me.

I am more the first and last to be felt of the living.

I am hunger. “

Lawrence Binyon

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us

The Gospel of John, written around the year 90, is skillfully constructed  around seven wondrous actions of Jesus, seven “signs” that lead to his passion and resurrection. Our reading last week was about the fourth sign; Jesus multiplies a few loaves and fish to feed a hungry crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee. (John 6, 1-15)

After each sign, Jesus explains its meaning, and the gospels read on Sundays for the remainder of the month– all from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel– are the dialogue Jesus has with the crowd following this miracle.

They’ve followed him and are clamoring for more. He’s the bread come down from heaven, Jesus says, and he reminds them of a previous sign God gave their ancestors in the desert when he sent manna from heaven as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were hungry and God fed them.

He’s the new Moses come down from above to dwell with humanity, Jesus tells them, and he will feed them and lead them on their journey to God’s kingdom. Yet, like their ancestors described in our first reading from the Book of Exodus, this crowd grumbles too. Yes, they experienced a wondrous gift yesterday or so, but that was yesterday. They want daily miracles, something for their stomachs today.

But miracles of that kind don’t happen everyday. Miracles and exceptional signs from God are rare; we spend most of our years living by faith.

Yet, faith also needs something to go on, signs to help us on our way, and so Jesus leaves a reminder of the miracle of the loaves and the fish. He gives the Bread of the Holy Eucharist as a sign that he abides with humanity. We remember him in this sign, we recognize him and we receive him, the “true bread come down from heaven.”

Jesus came to satisfy our hunger, not just our basic hunger for food and drink, but the hungry for life in so many forms. “The hand of the Lord feeds us, he answers all our needs.”